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36. Telegram From the Embassy in Iran to the Department of State and Department of Defense1

6816. Pass White House. Subj: Price and Availability of F14/15 Aircraft.

Summary: Concerned to plan now for his future air defenses, Shah has requested firm commitment in writing that USG will supply Iran with F14/15 aircraft. Action Requested: Language with which we may reply to Shah’s request. End summary.

1. During audience August 28 Shah asked Ambassador to obtain info on price and availability of F14/15 aircraft. Chief, ARMISH/MAAG, solicited this information through technical channels and received reply on 18 September. In substance, reply stated that reasonably accurate P and A info would be available for F14 in early 1974 and for F15 in 1975. Reply indicated that definite information would not be available until procurement had been authorized by Congress. When Congressional direction was established, DOD could prepare P and A data. This information was communicated to Gen. Khatami, Commander IIAF, by Chief, ARMISH/MAAG, and conveyed by Khatami to Shah.

2. On September 24, Khatami gave ARMISH/MAAG Shah’s response. While Shah understood conditions described in ARMISH/MAAG letter, he felt that it was essential that F14/15 purchase be “nailed down” as soon as possible. Iran must have firm commitment on availability of these aircraft, Shah emphasized. Asserting that MIG 23 and other advanced model aircraft were being provided to countries neighboring Iran, Shah feared Iran “could be left holding the bag. I will not permit this to happen.”2 Shah said Russians had offered sophisti[Page 144]cated aircraft on several occasions and would be eager to replace Western equipment and influence.

3. Shah stated that he was concerned about developing international political situation which might force USG to alter its verbal agreement to sell F14s and F15s. A signed agreement would enable him to plan on a firmer basis. Accordingly, Shah requested commitment in form of a signed statement authorized by USG on availability of F14 and F15 aircraft. If the price of these aircraft could not be discussed now, statement on availability could include language to effect that price for Iran would not exceed price to be charged to USG. Iran would pay same price for hardware as USG.3

4. We hope it will be possible for State and Defense to provide us with text of statement meeting Shah’s concerns. If it is not possible to make equally definite commitment on availability of both aircraft at this stage, suggest that consideration be given to treating the two aircraft separately on this point. However, as Shah’s request treated aircraft on same basis, it would be preferable for reply to deal with two aircraft in as nearly similar terms as possible.

Helms
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 603, Country Files—Middle East, Iran, Vol. V, May–December 1973. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Repeated to USCINCEUR.
  2. In telegram 6982 from Tehran, October 2, the Embassy noted that Clements’s statement that Iraq had Soviet TU–22 bombers had heightened the Shah’s interest in F–14 and F–15’s, and warned that Iran might announce its intention to buy three or four planes for every one Iraq received, since “Shah feels USG and GOI have been outmaneuvered now that Iraqis have TU–22 before Iran has F–14.” (Ibid., RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, P750018–1364) In backchannel message 98 from Tehran, October 2, Helms asked Kissinger if “this kind of irresponsible utterance” from the Defense Department could be stopped, adding that it would be better to tell the Iranians of such developments quietly, “rather than to have them overreact publicly to stimulation by press stories, which they inevitably do.” (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 425, Backchannel Files, 1973, Middle East/Africa) Kissinger agreed in backchannel message WH32433 to Tehran, October 3, noting that a new directive to all Cabinet officers would require White House clearance of statements with foreign policy import. (Ibid.)
  3. Telegram 197528 to Tehran, October 4, gave Helms authority to agree to the sale of F–14 and F–15 aircraft to Iran, at the same cost as to the U.S. Government. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, P750018–1945)